Tuesday, August 14, 2018

After 30+ Years Recruiting, Eleven Things I Still Don’t Understand

Thinking back on my still active recruitment career, I am puzzled by a number of things which constantly occur both with candidates and with hiring companies.  I thought I would share this list with my readers.  These are in no particular order.

1)     Why companies tell recruiters that they are in a hurry, but obviously are not
 All too often, I have received panicked calls from clients begging me to work over the weekend to find someone.  After working over the weekend and finding appropriate candidates, when I call or email on Monday or Tuesday, the client doesn’t respond until Friday.   And when they do respond, it may take a week or two to set up the first round of interviews.  Huh?

2)    Candidates who don’t tell their recruiters that they have accepted an offer
Every recruiter knows this one:  you interview a candidate and call them a week later (or a month or six months, doesn’t matter) with an opportunity only to find out that they have already accepted a job and did not tell you. It is rude and it makes for a lot of wasted time. 

3)    Clients who give assignments and then don’t return recruiter’s calls or emails
Weird, right?  Happens all the time. It has even happened to me once on a retained search after I have been paid.

4)    Candidates who don’t return calls
People who say they are desperate to leave their jobs and when they are called with an opportunity, simply don’t call back.  When a recruiter calls, the call should always be returned – you never know if it will make you rich or famous.  I have actually had candidates tell me that they are on a business trip and couldn’t call.  No excuse, still rude.

5)    Candidates and clients who cut recruiters out of the negotiating process
One assumes it is because there is some lack of trust, but if you don’t trust your recruiters, don’t use them.  So often, after the fact, I have seen offer letters which are just plain bad and not what the candidate was told, but the candidate didn’t know to show it to me or to tell me about the offer.  Very often, I have had clients who would not send me a copy of an offer letter, telling me it was between them and the candidate.  Figure that out.

6)    Clients who will not give job information to their recruiters
So often clients will not give specific information on a job search; instead, they provide a generic job description.  In advertising and marketing, sometimes they will not tell me what the product is or why the job is open or what the issues are.  How can a recruiter be effective with no information? And again, trust.

7)    Clients who will not give recruiters accurate feedback after an interview
Talking in generalities, which often happens, like, “Not a match,” or, “Not a good fit.” doesn’t help them move the search forward.  I always say to reluctant clients that if they tell me, “too tall, too short, too thin, too fat,” it provides good direction for the search.  And not being able to give feedback to the candidate is unfair and, frankly, unprofessional of the company.

8)    Candidates who don’t or won’t give recruiters complete information on their jobs
It is important for recruiters to know about the jobs they place people in.  It not only helps for future searches, but in many cases, an effective recruiter can give the company necessary feedback and resolve problems.  If a person does not like a job or it is not what was originally described, it is important that their recruiter know.

9)    Recruiters who are not involved with the process
Years ago, when I was an account person, I had a recruiter introduce me to a company.  He told me to make an appointment and gave no further information.  In fact, he told me to call him if and when I got an offer, but was not interested in any feedback.  That means the recruiter is only doing a small part of his or her job.  I don't understand why companies accept that kind of behavior from their recruiters..  

10)   Candidates and clients who grade recruiters on the number of send-outs
Especially now, with the internet, the quality of interviews far out-weighs the quantity.  I have always sent a limited number of people.  I once had a client tell me they wouldn’t use me because I sent too few candidates.  I have had candidates tell me the same thing (my response is the same to both: how many of those jobs did you get offered or how many of those people did you hire?).  I will never just send bodies to up my odds and I don't understand why companies tolerate that from their suppliers.

11)  Clients who give salary requirements and then offer candidates jobs that are either at the bottom end or below
I have been trying to figure this out for years.  The candidate who is making $160k and interviewing on a job that was specked at $160-175k who is offered $150 or $160k.  And then the client is surprised that the candidate turns the job down.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Adventures In Advertising: The Secret Of The Best Presenter I Ever Saw

I thought I would share the secret of the best presenter I ever saw.  His advice is the secret to making great speeches and presentations.

Ad agencies love to rehearse pending client presentations.  It is understandable:  they want the presentation to be perfect so they can sell the work or land the account.  There is only one problem.  Everyone in the room, from the most senior person to the most junior must be of one mind - they must believe in and love what they are selling.

Rehearsal cannot sell. Correcting people's syntax and the way they express themselves cannot sell. Only attitudes can.  Having confidence in in the work and communicating that belief is far more important than any talking points which someone might want to include in the presentation.  It isn’t that the talking points aren’t valid, it is that they have to be made in a forceful and passionate manner – from the gut.

In my first advertising job, I worked for the Richard K. Manoff Agency (subsequently bought by McCann).  Dick Manoff was the best presenter I ever met or saw.  He was an account guy and he was mesmerizing when he talked to clients (all employees loved to go to the one way mirror in the conference room and watch him present).  One day I asked him what his secret was.  He told me two things which have stayed with me for my whole career, even still.

First, he said, you have to absolutely believe in what you are selling.  Second, your words have to come from your gut.  In fact, words matter less than attitude when presenting.  To put it another way, words don’t sell, attitudes do.   

What great advice!

Ad agencies tend to practice and re-rehearse their presentations, sometimes to the point where they sound over-rehearsed and the actual presentation sounds memorized and insincere - kind of like reading a speech, . From the time I was an account supervisor, I had a hard time practicing what I was going to say thanks to Mr. Manoff. In fact, when agencies I worked at insisted on going over and over what we were going to say, I said what they wanted me to say in the rehearsal and then simply spoke from my gut when I presented, forgetting the practiced script, except very important points.  Clients believed me and I was generally able to sell the work if it was right.  It was my attitude that sold the work.  If I really believed in it, clients believed me and, if it was on strategy and there were no other unanticipated problems, the work sold.

This is a lesson that needs to be taught in every public speaking course and in every presentation class.

I promise you, David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach did not rehearse (they may have practiced, but like Mr. Manoff, when the actual presentation came, they spoke from their heart.  This is also true of icons like Mary Wells or Jay Chiat.  When they planned presentations, they told people what they were going to say without actually saying it.  As a result, their presentations were unstilted and believable. They came across as experts and the sincerity of their message came from somewhere deep inside them. 
When run-troughs are so over structured that the speakers sound stilted, the chances of selling the work goes way down.  Worse, during the client presentation when asked a question which is unexpected, over practiced people have a good chance of being unable to parry the response because it did not fit into the pre-rehearsed responses.  

I have previously written about the role of passion in success.  The story of legendary ad man George Lois is worth retelling.  When a client questioned his presentation, he threatened to jump out a window and went so far as to raising the window in his conference room and began to put his body outside.  The client was so alarmed that he immediately approved whatever it was that was presented. True?  Maybe.  But the point is that it proved to the client that George Lois believed in what he was saying and they bought the work.

I always believed that clients actually do support their agencies and want them to succeed.  Clients should be treated like friends, because they are.  And, for the most part they want to believe what you are telling them, especially when an effective account person has worked with them and pre-sold the work.

Pre-selling is one of the hallmarks of a good account person and a smart agency.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What It Is Like Traveling In A Wheelchair

Navagating a crowd in my motorized wheelchair Skagen, Denmark

I thought I would write about disabled traveling.   It is off topic (advertising), but I wanted to share my adventure because many people asked me how I did.  Our Denmark and Norway cruise was perfect for anyone, but especially for disabled travelers like me now. I just returned from a three week trip abroad with my wife, Amye.

As most of you know, my life was changed in a nano-second when a taxi struck me in October of 2015.  But I cannot let the changes to my life affect my ability to do the most I can and enjoy life.  I thought I would write about it, for those who are interested.

At first, after the accident, I was completely paralyzed from my neck down.  By the time I left the hospital after six months, I had regained the use of my upper body, but I remain in a wheelchair because the use of my legs remains limited.  I can walk short distances with the use of a walker and climb a few stairs as long as there are railings or strong people to help me up.

While I am working full time, after many months, I decided that my wife and I could use a break and a vacation.  We looked for vacations which would be fun, exciting and doable for both of us.  I still require a lot of help, even getting bathed and dressed, since my feet don’t work well.  I realized that cruises would be a good means of travel. So we took a cruise last year and another one this year.  In fact, we only returned from Denmark and Norway last week.  Cruises are a wonderful and easy way to travel for someone with limited mobility.  And they can be gorgeous.

Typical Norway sight from the ship

The airlines, mostly, are helpful, allowing us to bring my motorized chair directly to the plane entrance and then using my walker to get on the plane, while Amye has to disassemble and assemble the chair.  When the walker doesn’t fit on the plane, as is often the case, I have to use my arms and the airline seats to maneuver myself to my seat.  Not easy, but doable. Some airlines make it easy to get seats near the doors, others do not.  However, once we arrive at our destination, the wheelchair is generally waiting on the gangway.  I have learned to wait to be the last passenger off while Amye assembles it.

To make things easier for Amye, I arrange for airport pick ups.  I have also learned to send luggage ahead so that it is waiting for us at our hotels or on the ship and Amye only has to deal with carry-on.  (Operating the chair, it is difficult for me to carry a bag or be of much help to Amye).

Maneuvering at destinations is another thing all together.  Most cities do not have the extensive system of sidewalk cuts that exist in New York.  Often there is a cut to get off the sidewalk and cross the street, but once there,  we have discovered that there are many, many crosswalks where the other side has no access to the sidewalk because there is a six or eight inch curb which cannot be navigated by the wheelchair.  This requires me to always bring the walker (Amye figured out how to attach it to the back of the chair), so we have to stop, often in heavy traffic, get the walker off my chair, have me stand up and then take the step up to the sidewalk; Amye then usually asks a passerby to help get the chair up.  On top of that, in many foreign cities, streets and sidewalks are cobbled, which are lovely, but which makes using a wheelchair less than comfortable.  I choose to be occasionally uncomfortable.

Cobblestone sidewalk: beautiful to look at, tough to ride on.

 In many foreign cities, Copenhagen, for one, building entrances and restaurants are either several steps up or down and there are few wheelchair ramps.  I figured out how to get in and, for those of you who know me, I never was unable to get a great meal.

When not walking, Taxi’s in most foreign cities are accessible and drivers very willing to help me in and out.  They also help Amye fold and unfold the chair. Imagine that in New York or Chicago.  In Copenhagen, drivers are actually all trained to help disabled people.  We discovered that people everywhere are, for the most part, surprisingly and pleasantly helpful, especially helping me to get into and out of cabs, buses and the like.

But we determined that, despite the discomfort, the effort justified the results – good sightseeing, great meals.

Most nights, caviar before dinner on the ship

Just a gorgeous and yummy dessert

Then the cruise itself.  I cannot speak for any cruise line except for Seabourn.  They are formidable. I saw several disabled passengers who were actually carried onboard the ship by the crew.  In my case, I chose to walk up and down the gangway – they always had people to help me.  Getting up the stairs to get on the ship requires a lot of work, but the exercise is good.  The stairway below took about seven or eight minutes for me to get up or down (only 21 steps), but I was determined to take advantage of the shore excursions in almost every location.

Amye on the gangway which I am about to climb

Once on the ship, Seabourn offers a number of larger, accessible rooms at no extra charge.  They are  convenient and very suitable for wheelchair travelers, including wide doors and easy access showers.

Our wheelchair accessible cabin, wide enough for easy movement

Navigating on the ship is easy as the hallways are wide and there are elevators, all large enough for me and the wheelchair, as well as other passengers.  Almost all doorways within the ship are automatic, making getting out to the pool, the spa and other areas easy.

Surprisingly, we were initially interested in taking a European or Asian river cruise.  However, believe it or not, I could not find a single appropriate and fully wheelchair accessible river cruise ship anywhere in the world, making it impossible for us to do one of these very desirable trips.

One thing I have discovered, is that travel agents still have much sway with the cruise lines.  Ours, who has been a friend for thirty years, is indispensable. She knows my preferences in travel and was able to get me exactly what I needed on two Seabourn cruises.  Once on these ships, getting around is easy.  Every floor is serviced by large elevators, hallways are wide and the dining venues, including the casino and bars and theaters have ample room for a wheelchair.  If needed, there was always a crew member to help me, but that need was rare.  There are also gorgeous stairways between decks, which, unfortunately, were not for me.

Seabourn has an accessibility department which is helpful in determining which shore excursions are doable.  Often buses used for sightseeing and transfers have hugely big steps making on and off quite difficult. Somehow I managed, but again, almost everywhere we went, there were helpful volunteers if I needed them. 

Some ports are accessible only by tender, which is fine as long as the see is calm. 
The tenders actually hold about forty people; big step from the ship, but I managed.
I only missed one port, which was a short stop anyway.  Some ports are just too steep or rocky for easy access, but we were able to do almost everything we wanted.

There are certain cities where we just cannot go.  I am told they are too rough in terms of cobblestones and bad sidewalks. 

But Amye and I are determined to travel and enjoy life.  A couple of pictures are worth a thousand words.  These few views make all the effort worthwhile.

View of Trollfjord,  which we sailed down, at some points only thirty feet wider than the ship;
which is a little over 90 feet wide, amazing seamanship and jaw dropping beauty

Norway Coastline; drop dead gorgeous every day

View just outside of Flam, Norway during a shore excursion

A beautiful, peaceful village as seen from a train in Norway

Seabourn Ovation, Seabourn's newest ship, anchored off shore in Olden, Norway.
Only 600 passengers, which is a perfect number.
Traveling in a wheelchair has its challenges, but the end justifies the means.  I am thankful that I could make this trip and look forward to other adventures.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Getting Rich In Advertising

Perceptually, advertising has always been a business where people in it did well financially, especially during the Mad Men era. But the truth is that advertising was never a business that people entered to actually get rich;  people sought careers in advertising because it was creative (and fun – since there was always an element of show business in it), with a chance to do well. Careers in advertising mostly came about because people had talent for it and loved it.   

Advertising executives were never paid as much as lawyers, finance people or manufacturers.  

It may be true of all business, but especially in advertising, nearly everyone exaggerated their own salaries and believed that everyone else was making far more than they actually were.  When I became a recruiter, I learned the hard truth – it just wasn’t so.  There was once a time (Mad Men Days), when account executives made considerably more money than their client ad manager and brand manager counterparts.  It was so much so that we were counseled not to discuss our pay with our clients.  The concern was that the disparity would cause unnecessary conflict.  

Not so any more. Starting in the eighties, when fees started to become prevalent, clients actually cut the salaries of people who worked on their account by lowering the blended rate (that is the aggregate and average salary of all people working on an account).  Today ad agencies pay far less than their clients.  At more senior levels things tend to even out, but companies, on the whole, do still pay more.

Entry level in most big city agencies is still mostly in the $30-40,000 range; MBA salaries are not much higher.  Outside of these markets, starting salaries are much lower.  Most of the major advertiser companies have starting salaries now in the $60’s or higher (I believe Procter is now paying $90,000 plus for MBA’s.   I have written before about the late, great Harold Levine, who spent ten years and his own money trying to recruit minorities in the business.  As he told me the story, one MBA at Howard University was, at the time, offered $40,000 (which was comparatively high) to start at Y&R but several of the good package goods companies offered him more than $80k to start, leaving him no choice.  Sadly, this MBA candidate had always wanted to be in advertising.
Companies  paying so much more at entry level causes a huge schism in the business (and diminishes the value of the people servicing their accounts).

It isn’t that advertising pays badly.  It is merely a business which pays its senior people well (but mostly not extraordinarily). Its juniors have to really want to be in the business and are willing to pay their dues for fifteen or more years before they get senior enough to be paid well.  And that requires a true commitment and love of the business. Few people at most agencies consider themselves to be rich.

Rich is a relative term.  In the research I did for this post, I found out that people making $50-100,000 consider rich to be making $260 or more.  But only 28% of people with net worth of $1,000,000, consider themselves to be rich.  There are many people making $200,000 a year who are actually in debt and broke.

Most executives in the business end up doing relatively well if they stay with it, but they are, to my thinking, not rich.  In fact, really rich is the millions of dollars made by the officers of the holding companies.  Wealthy is the $6,000,000+ made by Michael Roth of Interpublic or the $3 plus million made by Maurice Levy at Publicis (these people also get huge other financial perks and incentives on top of their salaries). But these people are not really advertising executives, they are mostly financial people. In fact, many of them do not even have advertising backgrounds.  In terms of the ordinary employees of the business, writers and art directors tend to be higher paid than other advertising people.  But even the most successful creative people are lucky today if they make around $300k.  I know many senior account managers and worldwide group account directors who make far less.
Now, don’t get me wrong, at $3-400,000 one can live well. But few of these people will tell you that they are rich.   

Advertising was once a place where people, especially those who owned the agency, could make lots of money.  People know that Bob Jacoby pocketed $100+ million when he sold Ted Bates to the Saatchi’s or that Donny Deutsch sold his agency for $250+ million when it was purchased by Interpublic in 1999.  But these people became the owners of their own independent businesses and spent years successfully building them so that the holding companies would eventually pay to buy them, often overpaying.  Today there are very few independent agencies which have achieved that level of financial success (The Richards Group, Wieden + Kennedy, Cramer-Krasselt, Droga 5, to name a few) and, interestingly, that I know of, none of these agencies are yet for sale, although every holding company has tried to purchase them).

The bottom  line is that if you want to get rich these days, you have to own your own shop and it has to become big enough to be attractive to the large holding companies.

In the meanwhile, we would all like to see salaries increased, especially at entry and mid-levels so that ad agencies can attract the best talent.  But for the time being, we will have to accept that people who stay in the business merely do so because they love it.

To my readers:  This will be my last post for about a month.  I am taking some much needed R&R.  See you at the end of July.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five Things Lost For Candidates And Companies With Online Recruiting

With the advent of online recruiting, actual recruiters have often been cast aside by companies. While they are saving money, there is a huge hidden cost.  Here are five things that are being lost both for companies and people.

1)    The Quality of candidates is suffering
The best candidates often are not online and do not use the online recruiting sites. So, for the most part, companies only receive the résumés of the people who are actively looking online.  Recruiters often know the wishes and desires of their best candidates and only send them when the most appropriate jobs show up.
Although I have not seen empirical evidence, I will bet turnover has increased.

2)    Mentoring
Over the years there are dozens, if not hundreds, of candidates I have been       able to guide and help.  It is one of the joys of recruiting, especially for a single industry recruiter.  There are people whose careers I have actually managed – both junior executives and those well into their careers., including presidents and CEO's. 

Because companies have cut back on the use of recruiting, this benefit is unknown to many young people.

The corollary to that is that many recruiters have left the business and companies have lost the counsel of many who knew their companies well.

3)    Long-term relationships with management have been hindered
Recruiting is a relationship business – both with candidates and companies.
Good recruiters know the principals and hiring managers of many of their clients.  Consequently they know who fits and who will succeed.

Human resources and the network owned company managers, because they are not allowed to use recruiters, are often precluded from taking advantage of this valuable service. 

When a great candidate is spotted for a likely company, it is becoming more and more difficult to market them to that business.

4)    Working with résumés
Effective recruiters can maximize people’s candidacy by interpreting, explaining and often rewriting (or directing the rewrite) résumés.

5)    Recruiters know and understand jobs
Working with recruiters speeds up the recruiting process.  They are familiar with companies and hiring managers and often know the ins and outs of specific jobs so that they can quickly access appropriate candidates.  

Online listings rarely contain enough information and, as a result, companies may receive dozens, if not hundreds, of inappropriate résumés which have to be screened and interviewed.  This is time consuming and costly.  And it often costs companies exceptional candidates. 

Good recruiters are also objective about salaries and are most often able to make deals that are fair to both sides.  People don't like to negotiate for themselves, finding it uncomfortable.  Recruiters can negotiate appropriate salaries commensurate with the job.  This may help lower turnover.


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